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Organic Update 2008

By Crystal Wakoa

You shop at New Leaf Market. Lucky you! You purchase local produce, organic food and body care products for your family’s health and safety. Who is working behind the scenes to ensure that what you’re spending your hard-earned bucks on is truly organic?

You like to go out to eat once in awhile. Occasionally you buy food from the supermarket. You like the convenience of Starbucks. Your kids sometimes eat in the school cafeteria, or at friends’ homes. Who is fighting the endless uphill battle of food safety?

You are concerned about global climate change, our country’s addiction to oil and the food crisis. You do what you can as an individual. Who is connecting the dots, lobbying on behalf of the Earth’s seeds, soils, crops, forests and peoples?

The answer is the Organic Consumers Organization (OCA)—a stellar grassroots organization whose mission is to promote the interests of the 50 million organic consumers like you. Here is how they’ve worked for you so far this year.

In March, the OCA released a scientific study revealing the presence of a carcinogenic chemical, 1,4-Dioxane, in many shampoos and soaps claiming to be organic. Some companies responded well to the OCA’s demand to change their labels or reformulate their products. Others thumbed their noses. The OCA filed a lawsuit that is still pending. In the meantime, it would be wise to check the ingredients list of your body care products before purchasing. For more information about 1,4-Dioxane see the May/June issue of Natural Times at www.newleafmarket.coop.

Labeling of genetically engineered (GE) ingredients is still not required in the U.S., despite the OCA’s persistent efforts. GE crops threaten public health, while destroying small farms and biodiversity. Now, biotech giant Monsanto is on the verge of unleashing its GE sugar beets on the American food market. With over half of all U.S. granulated sugar coming from beets, this new “frankenfood” will find its way into thousands of products. The OCA has established a campaign to pressure major companies—Hershey, Mars, Kellog’s—to publicly ban GE sugar from their products.

Thanks to the OCA’s nine-year effort, in January Starbucks agreed to stop using milk that contains recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH). Another Monsanto creation, rBGH, has been banned in Europe for years, but is found in virtually all commercially produced non-organic milk in the U.S. The OCA is continuing to pressure Starbucks to increase its paltry six percent sales of Fair Trade and organic coffee. Doing so would keep small coffee farmers in business, as well as motivate the large growers to switch to earth-friendly organic methods.

The OCA mobilized a lobbying effort to reform the 2007-2012 Farm Bill. How does this affect you? The Farm Bill appropriates 300 billion of our tax dollars to subsidize corporate agribusiness, biotech companies (like Monsanto) and factory farms. Organic programs garner chump change. This time around, the OCA was able to get several pro-organic programs funded. Among them, a five-fold increase to help organic producers with certification costs. Another adds more dollars to promote sustainable farming practices, making it easier for thousands of conventional farmers to transition to organic practices.

With increasing public awareness of the inter-relatedness of our climate, energy and food crises, the OCA has stepped up its public education campaign on biofuels. They promote a reduction in greenhouse gas pollution by converting our food and farming system to local and organic. Another facet of their educational campaign is providing information to consumers on how to afford organic foods on a limited budget.

Eight-hundred and fifty thousand concerned consumers like you make up the OCA. To join, learn more, or just say thanks, go to www.organicconsumers.org.

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